Post beach garden update

The garden survived while we were away- in fact it thrived. Before we left I stripped all the snow peas and figured that was that for the season. Not so – the bush was loaded again. I picked another couple pounds of snow peas and then pulled the plants even though there were still a few blossoms. That’s the last of the cool weather crops. Zucchini and bell pepper bushes were also loaded with pickable veggies. The remarkable thing about the peppers is that I’m picking from bushes that were planted last July and are loaded with new peppers and blossoms. I nursed these 2 bushes through a few freezes but had no idea they could actually last this long. I’m wondering if this is typical or if I somehow ended up with a super species. Some critter attacked the corn plants but there are still a good number looking good. Some are 5′ tall and sporting top silk.

I was a bit concerned because it hasn’t started raining yet but the heat is coming on. Our famously high humidity just hasn’t happened and we’re typically now in the mid 30% range – for Florida, that’s desert levels. I have a couple of battery powered sprinkler timers but there are still lots of things that can go wrong. So I breathed a sigh of relief when all was green and much of it double the size pre-beach.

A couple of years ago I picked up a couple of the battery powered sprinkler timers at Costco. I was surprised to find they were from Bountiful, UT – actually they are marketed by Orbit in Bountiful but manufactured in China. After a year or so, a couple of the solenoid units crashed but they were replaced quickly with just a phone call to Bountiful. A couple of months ago both of the control heads failed. I called Orbit to see if it made sense to send them back for repair and was told that they had a 6 year warranty and would just be replaced. Now that’s what I call a warranty. I’m guessing these units would hold up well in Utah but year round operation in Florida is a tough assignment. I learned to seal up all holes and crevises because it took bugs only a few days to find their way inside the unit and a month or so to totally fill it with nest material. And the internal battery contacts rust over with our pervasive humidity. This time around I’ve engineered a container for the control head to give it another level of protection so maybe I can nurse the new units along for a few years.

Planted some Okra. We had fried okra as an appetizer the other night so it seemed like a good idea to bring it home to the garden/kitchen. Tried some last year but no luck. I forget exactly what happened but this year will be totally different, I hope. I picked an award winning variety – Red Cajun – and will leave nothing to chance. I use a fishing line called Cajun Red and it works great so the Okra will surely be a hit. So far I’m amazed that several seeds germinated in just three days.

So far so good on the nematode control. We started picking zucchini which I’d planted in an old firepit. I planted the same variety in that same spot last year and the nematodes nailed it within a couple of weeks and even those plants that survived did poorly. I stoked up the soil there with compost for the winter crops. That crop started out good but then the rabbits got them and those that survived did poorly. Stoked with more compost and planted the summer stuff in late March along with all the nematode remedies. Everything has grown really great and we’re picking squash on a daily basis now. I’m not ready to declare victory but it’s light years ahead of where it was this time last year so I know I’m on the right track. Also noted some small green tomatoes and loads of blossoms on several plants. I think I have 6 different varieties going at this time with the first to produce a variety called Solar Fire developed by UF to deal with the Florida heat and humidity. I had surrounded all the tomato plants with those Guardian Marigolds which have grown really tall and strong. No flowers yet but they are already much bigger than I had guessed and in most cases actually taller than the tomatoes. I just know the roots are down there nailing nematodes.

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